Roy Halladay: Hall of Famer? | Baseball | CBC Sports

MLBRoy Halladay: Hall of Famer?

Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | 12:54 PM

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Roy Halladay spent the first 12 of his 16 big-league seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. (Nick Laham/Getty Images) Roy Halladay spent the first 12 of his 16 big-league seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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Does Roy Halladay belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame? That's a question many people are asking after the brilliant right-hander announced his retirement this week.
Does Roy Halladay belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

That's a question many people are asking after the brilliant right-hander announced this week he'd sign a ceremonial one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and then retire from pitching in the major leagues.

The quick answer for me is yes, but I'm a Blue Jays fan, so I might be slightly biased. I'd really like to see another player in the Hall wearing a Jays cap.

But just because I'm biased, doesn't mean I'm wrong.

Halladay is the best pitcher of the 21st century so far. He won two Cy Young awards (with the Blue Jays in 2003 and the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010) and he finished in the top five in Cy voting seven times from 2003 to 2011, his last great season.

I think a good criterion for the Hall of Fame is "Was the player the best at his position in his era?" Halladay was the best of his time.

Halladay's career stats over 16 seasons: 203-105 win-loss record, .659 win percentage, 3.38 ERA, 131 ERA+ (a league- and park-adjusted expression of ERA in which 100 is average), 1.9 walks/9 innings, 6.9 strikeouts/9, 65.6 Wins Above Replacement. (all stats from Baseball Reference)

Where Halladay falls a little short of the usual Hall of Fame standard is in the win column. If not for the back injuries that plagued him over his last two seasons, it's likely he could have played three or four more years and made it to the 250-win mark that Hall of Fame voters like to see.

There are other starting pitchers who came up short of 250 wins but still made it into the Hall. Let's see how Doc compares to three of them.

Sandy Koufax: 165-87, .655 win percentage, 2.76 ERA, 131 ERA+, 3.2 walks/9, 9.3 strikeouts/9, 53.2 WAR over 12 seasons.

Very few pitchers compare to Koufax, whose final four years (1963-1966) were unbelievably good. Unfortunately for him, the Dodgers pitched him until his arm gave out (he threw 658 innings in his last two seasons) and he had to leave the game at age 30. If someone tells you that baseball babies pitchers' arms in these days, tell them to look at Sandy's career.

Halladay has more wins than Koufax, in a longer career, but he also has a slightly better winning percentage and the same ERA+. The latter stat calibrates a pitcher's ERA to his league's ERA at the time. Both Halladay and Koufax had ERA+ marks that were 31 per cent better than the average pitcher of their day.

Koufax is one up on Halladay in Cy Young awards, having won three, but Doc's stats match up nicely  with Sandy's, and Koufax is one of the greatest pitchers the game has ever seen. Koufax was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Don Drysdale: 209-166, .556 win percentage, 2.95 ERA, 121 ERA+, 2.2 walks/9, 6.5 strikeouts/9, 61.2 WAR over 14 seasons.

Drysdale was a teammate of Koufax's. He won about the same number of games as Halladay, but took 61 more losses. Drysdale's ERA is lower, but he played at a time when fewer runs were scored, so Halladay's ERA+ is better. They had careers of similar lengths, and their stats are fairly similar, but all in all, Roy's numbers are better.

If Drysdale deserves to the in the Hall of Fame, then Halladay does as well. The unfortunate news for Doc is it took 10 years on the ballot before baseball writers voted Drysdale in. I hope it won't take them that long with Halladay.

Catfish Hunter: 224-166, .574 win percentage, 3.26 ERA, 104 ERA+, 2.5 walks/9, 5.2 strikeouts/9, 36.6 WAR.

Doc has a better winning percentage and a better ERA compared to his contemporaries (Hunter's ERA+ was only 4 per cent better than the average pitcher over his career). Halladay walked fewer batters and struck out more. No one would have considered Hunter the best pitcher of his time.

But then, Catfish had some extras features that Hall of Fame voters like. First, he had the cool nickname. How many Catfishes do you know? A name like that stands out, though Doc is a pretty cool nickname too.

More importantly, Catfish played on five World Series-winning teams. He won three straight from 1972-74 with an iconic Oakland A's team, then added a pair with the Yankees before the decade was out). I don't think being lucky enough to be on great teams should factor into the Hall of Fame discussion, but the voters seem to care.

Catfish also won at least 20 games in five consecutive seasons, helped along by playing on some very good teams, and won one Cy Young award. He was a good pitcher. But Halladay was a better pitcher. If Hunter is in, Halladay should be. Hunter was elected in his third time on the ballot.

So does Halladay belong?

I think Halladay compares favorably to several of the pitchers already in the Hall of Fame. It's too bad his career has been cut short by injury, but there are many pitchers in the Hall whose careers ended prematurely.

I doubt he'll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Some members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which handles the voting, have a strange idea that very few players should go in on the first ballot. I don't understand that. I think if you believe someone deserves to be in the Hall, then they deserve your vote when their name first appears on the ballot, not a year or two later.

Hopefully Halladay, and his fans, won't have to wait too long to see him enshrined.

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